Architecture is widely known to be a male-dominated field with only 26% of registered architects are women in the US and 33% in the UK. The reasons for this are that there is still a misconception that women are less capable of handling on-site or managerial roles in comparison to men. This does not stem just within the architectural industry but more so ingrained with the way society thinks.
Despite the small percentage of registered architects that are women, many have made astonishing contributions towards the architecture study and field. Some of which have led to breakthroughs and here are some of them:
Kathleen Eileen Moray Smith, a pioneer of the Modern Movement in architecture was born on 9 August 1878 and was an Anglo-Irish architect and furniture and interior designer. Her most famous work is E-1027 which was fully designed and furnished by her for her lover, Jean Badovici, a French architect and an architecture critic in France. E-1027 has only recently come to be one of the most defining buildings of modernist architecture.
Gray expressed that her influence for E-1027 was not based on theories per se but on how people lived in a home and how the different rooms were used. She mentioned that “entering a house should be like the sensation of entering a mouth which will close behind you”. To add, Gray frequently uses the term “considerate” to describe the building.
Inspired by the living habits of women on the coast, doors were placed out of the sightlines to ensure each room appeared to be free and alone. Gray also believed that the study of light and shadow and how it infiltrates the building was crucial in her design approach.
Having flexible living spaces and accentuating the use of surfaces and light that enters, helps to articulate space without using actual dividing walls. With Gray’s design approach, she achieves to make E-1027 a decent example of infinite space.
Le Corbusier, a close friend of Badovici also stayed in the house for longer periods in 1937 and 1938. He intruded on E-1027’s design by painting murals on the walls which Gray found to be disrespectful and an act of vandalism that disrupted the character of the house.
In today’s time, Corbusier’s intrusions to Gray’s design have sometimes led people to believe that Corbusier was the designer of E-1027, not Gray. Seemingly affronted that a woman with little architectural training had managed to execute something so in line with his work, Corbusier “asserted his dominion like a urinating dog, over the territory”.
The murals which he paints so in nude in mockery to Gray only further perpetuates the evidence of sexual politics of modern architecture and how Gray was victimised by phallocracy in the architectural profession which was dominated by males in the 1920s. Despite the vandalism, the murals are now considered protected art that cannot be removed which questions whether E-1027 would be as popular as it is today without Corbusier’s touch.
Born on 21 November 1950, Martha Schwartz an American landscape architect and educator. A founding principal of Martha Schwartz Partners and a professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, she is passionate about the urban public realm landscape and its importance in making cities ‘climate ready’.
As an urbanist and climate activist, Schwartz is focused on strategic land-use and landscape planning that helps leaders of today prepare for the effects of climate change that their city will soon face in the future. Schwartz is also a founding member of the Working Group of Sustainable Cities at the Harvard University Center for the Environment and is also a founding member of the Landscape Architecture Foundation‘s “Working Group on Climate Change”.
Schwartz was also awarded the 2020 ASLA Design Medal Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Award from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce for her outstanding contribution to UK design and the Women in Design Award for Excellence from the Boston Society of Architects.
Grand Canal Square, one of Schwartz’s most popular works situated in a dominated contemporary architectural space, Martha Schwartz Partners has emerged creating a public space that offers colour and dynamic touch to the urban fabric of that area.
Kazuyo Sejima is a Japanese architect known for her clean modernist elements in her designs. Sejima was born on 29 October 1956 and she completed her master’s degree course in architecture in 1981. Right after her graduation, she began working with the architecture firm Toyo Ito and Associates until 1987.
She then proceeded to establish Kazuyo Sejima & Associates and hired Ryue Nishizawa, a student who worked with her at Toyo Ito and Associates. She eventually asked him for a partnership and founded SANAA in 1995.
In 2010, Sejima became the first-ever woman to be appointed director of the architecture sector for the Venice Biennale. In the same year, she too became the second woman to ever been awarded the Pritzker Prize. Sejima has a strong interest in exploring the relationship between the inside and the outside of a structure and the cognitive possibilities of architecture.
Sejima also believes that one should acquire knowledge and understanding through experiences and how architecture can affect the way we get to know our world and ourselves. New Art Museum by SANAA is one of the modernist design examples of Sejima’s clean and squared blocks approach.